El Club Allard, Madrid

February 10, 2015

María Marte, now 36 and the mother of three, arrived in Madrid from her native Santo Domingo in 2003. Although already a trained pastry chef, she took a job cleaning in the kitchen of El Club Allard. This restaurant had, in fact, been started as a private club in 1998, but was opened to the public in 2003.  Under its imaginative chef, Diego Guerrero, El Club Allard earned two Michelin stars in 2011. But, after ten years, he suddenly and unexpectedly left in the fall of 2013, eager to have his own place where he could let his talents roam freely. María Marte had been cooking and learning from Guerrero as she rose in responsibilities over ten years, having been named jefa de cocina in 2010.  She stepped in to fill the gap, temporarily at first, but she was up to the job and retained the restaurant’s two Michelin stars. Linda and I went for dinner to El Club Allard on January 20, 2015.

Like many Madrileño restaurants, El Club Allard does not open until 9:00 pm. We arrived a few minutes early and wandered on the sidewalk for a few minutes until we found the street number outside an elegant 1908 building. There is no sign for El Club Allard. A few people were already inside the ironwork gates, waiting at the bottom of the stairs for the door up one flight to be unlocked. At 9:00 exactly we were let inside.
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We were seated at a corner table in the back of the dining room. I took this
photo just after we sat down. You can sense the clubby ambiance.
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This was taken during the meal. Our Portuguese waiter (below) was extroverted and English speaking. He enjoyed answering our questions.
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We ordered glasses of cava. The genial, English-speaking sommelier came by. He suggested three unusual Spanish white wines to go with most of the menu. We chose the most interesting sounding wine.
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It was excellent with a certain earthiness, but crisper than a Meursault, for example. He also chose a red wine from the same region, Priorat, for a glass to accompany the meat course.
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We were offered a choice of three menus at different price levels displayed on a card put in front of us. We chose the middle one, “Seduction.”  A bowl of lime mayonnaise with peanut oil was put next to the card.
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We were told that the menu card was made of potato paper with the printing in squid ink. We should dip the card in the mayonnaise and eat it. This was fun, but did not taste great.

A bread basket was passed. Olive oil and salt for dipping were on the table.

The first menu course was
Smoked sardine with celeriac cream and apple
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The smoked sardine rested on a bed of celery root cream. It was garnished with a carved piece of apple, avocado and two kinds of caviar. Very nice.

Shot of butter fish and white asparagus
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The slice of seaweed bread was topped with a yellow spread, salmon roe and herbs. The butterfish “sukiyaki” broth was topped with white asparagus foam. This dish was good.

Pea’s ravioli with Iberian dewlap
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Fried pork neck was enclosed in a pea purée and topped with crisp fine sweet potato shards. A warm ham broth was poured around it at the table. Nice.

Warm lobster salad with mango guacamole
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Two lobster pieces were served with mango guacamole, a line of crisp beetroot shards, dark green dabs of seaweed purée and a begonia flower. The chef’s Dominican heritage was evident here. Nice.

Sea rice
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Squid had been chopped into rice size bits and made into a sort of risotto with “plankton.” The faux shells were formed from very thin seaweed paper. On the left is a tangle of seaweed threads. This was very good.

Onion soup
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A brie/camembert ball was atop thick beefy French onion soup and onion-flavored pastry leaves. We were told to mix it all up before eating.

Baked turbot with smoked “arbequina” olive oil with seasonal baby vegetables
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A crispy skinned piece of turbot was garnished with a little carrot and a cooked, skinned yellow cherry tomato topped with black salt. The sauce was smoked and thickened olive oil. Good.

Black roast
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Boned, small Iberian pork ribs had been marinated in mixture of honey and spices. They were grilled until crisp and black on top, but still moist and tasty underneath. Alongside were a strip of tomato powder, a banana smear and a bread chip. The meat was delicious.

Hibiscus flower and Pisco Sour
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A candied hibiscus flower was on top of chopped pistachios and under a Pisco Sour foam. This was a good pre-dessert.

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A scoop of Granny Smith ice cream  was served with a ball flavored with rose petals and various fruits.

Chocolate rocks
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A scoop of tonka bean ice cream lay in the middle of chunks of dark chocolate on top of chocolate granules.

pctit-fours  (Blackboard)
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The mignardises on a slate with the restaurant’s name in chalk included passion fruit sticks.

The chef came out to the dining room to shake hands and she kindly posed for a photo with us.
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We had enjoyed a very nice evening. The cuisine combined traditional aspects that one might find in a club with inventiveness and well-chosen flavor combinations. The pace was good; the service was always friendly and efficient. There were only two other tables that did not speak Spanish; the clientèle was quite young; the prices seemed very reasonable to us. We hope that María Marte has a long and successful career; her accomplishments so far are very impressive.



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